A young New York Islanders squad battled back against a veteran New Jersey Devils team on Thursday, but couldn’t complete the comeback, falling 2-1 in a shootout at Prudential Center in Newark.
Kael Mouillierat, one of eight Islanders with fewer than two years of NHL experience, forced overtime with his first exhibition goal, deflecting home a Frans Nielsen shot at 4:51 of the third period. The Islanders could not capitalize on a late power play in overtime, or on their five attempts in the skills competition, giving way to a Travis Zajac winner. Prior to Mouillierat’s goal, the Islanders trailed 1-0 for 41:45, in what was a low-scoring, low-shooting contest.
“It wasn’t how I envisioned my first exhibition goal, but you take what you can get up here and it’s exciting,” Mouillierat said. “[The play] was scrambled out there, it was tough to find flow out there because they play real tight defense.”
Ryan Strome had the Isles best chance in the shootout, but snapped a wrist shot off the right post. A quarter of an inch to the left and the rookie would have capped off a strong game and a comeback win. Strome led all Islanders forwards with 21:03 TOI, five shots and 10 total attempts.
“I thought [Ryan] was one of our best offensive players tonight,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought the last two games were breakout games for him.”
Jaroslav Halak also turned in a strong game for the Islanders, stopping 21-of-22 shots in regulation and held the Devils to one goal in the shootout. The Islanders’ backstop gave up an early power-play goal to Mike Cammalleri, but was sharp the rest of the way, including a highlight-reel save on a 2-on-1 in the first period. Halak laid out in desperation and robbed Jon Merrill with an outstretched arm and paddle.
“When he passed it across, I just wanted to get there with some piece of equipment and luckily for me my arm was there with my stick,” Halak said. “I felt better than my last game.”
After an even first period, the Islanders controlled the play in the second, outshooting the Devils 8-2 while holding them without an official shot until the 17:17 mark of the period. Alan Quine had the Islanders best chance in the second stanza, but Cory Schneider thwarted the opportunity, en route to a 20-save performance.
“We turned a lot of pucks over in the first period,” Capuano said. “Once we settled down in the second and third we played much better. Our puck management was a lot better.”
The Islanders drop to 4-1-1 in preseason play, while the Devils improve to 3-1-1. The Islanders wrap up their preseason schedule Friday night in Bridgeport, CT, when they host the Boston Bruins at Webster Bank Arena. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.